We all believe in myths – it’s a natural part of our existence. Myths have been around since the dawn of mankind. It’s a relatively normal thing, and we are all sometimes ‘victims’ to the concept of the myth, even today. Naturally, it’s no longer some ancient supernatural Deities – it’s the modern concepts like technology. Myths in technology are very prevalent as most of us find it hard to understand it. If we are not professionals, then it’s entirely reasonable for us to be gullible to many fake concepts. That’s especially true in online security. Since cybersecurity is a crucial part of our lives, we thought we would give you a thorough list of myths most people still believe. We’ll go through each in great detail and debunk it, so you’ll finally know the truth behind. Let’s jump in!
Myth Busters – With a Twist
The concept of myths is strongly integrated into our basic knowledge. Their mere existence is closely linked to our rational data and practical knowledge (security-wise) on staying safe online that it is quite daunting to say what is true and what is not.
Sometimes we believe that something is what it is, while other times we just can’t comprehend what’s going on. If we say we know something, we might turn out to be wrong. That’s why I came up with this guide to shed some light on nine myths we still believe about online security. Here they are.
Myth 1: My Data Is Protected When My Privacy Settings Are Enabled.
Symantec’s research from 2018 shows us that more than half of Americans (53%) believe their data is protected when their privacy settings are enabled. However, that simply isn’t true. Even if you allow privacy settings on every website and social media platform where you have a profile, your data won’t be safe.
The simple reality is that once you share your data and information online – it’s no longer safe! You don’t need to give it directly to anyone, because as long as it’s online, it’s not safe. Websites can be hacked, or your personal information can be part of a data breach. For example, there was a data breach on Facebook fairly recently. More than half a billion records with Facebook user data were exposed because of weak security measures.
It doesn’t matter what your privacy settings say, if someone can breach the security measures of the site, your data can be stolen or exposed. There’s a lot of data that can be lost, most notably your email and password. You can check whether some of your emails or passwords were exposed online through a handy site called Have I been pwned?
Myth 2: Hackers Cannot Access My Locked Smartphone.
The previously referenced Symantec’s research also tells us that 13% of Americans believe this to be true. However, hackers often don’t need to access your phone at all. They simply target your data on the cloud where it’s stored.
- A hacker can trick you into installing a malicious app that gives them access to your phone even if it’s properly secured.
- They can also easily steal your data if you use it online while you’re connected to an unprotected Wi-Fi. Public open Wi-Fi networks are the most dangerous of all.
- Sometimes even password-protected public Wi-Fi is not secure. There’s still a potential for someone to find a way to access your data. If you want to be completely safe in this situation, you need to use a VPN.
- If the site where you’re using your sensitive data is unsecured (regular HTTP and not https), then your information is unsecured as well.
Myth 3: Hackers Only Want My Data.
Not all hacks are about data. Many go for money, like ransomware attacks. According to CSO Online, ransomware costs exceeded $5 billion in 2017, which is 15 times more than the costs were in 2015. What’s more, these attacks are growing by some 350% annually.
With such a surge in these cyberattacks, it’s necessary to highlight that many hackers are turning toward them. Ransomware attacks tend to be very successful and lucrative. However, the good thing about them is that they have mostly started to affect the public sector (most notably hospitals in the U.S.).
These attacks are unlikely to strike a regular person and small businesses, but it’s essential to remain vigilant and protected. Norton has an excellent article that can help you learn how to protect yourself from ransomware attacks.
Myth 4: A Strong Password Will Keep Me Protected.
Yes, that’s partly true. Strong passwords are typically the backbone of proper cybersecurity techniques. However, they are not always enough.
Passwords can still be breached:
- A hacker can try to guess it after learning about you. Most people insert something very personal to them in the password, which is why passwords should always have random words and phrases, combined with numbers and special characters. You can always use a Strong Password Generator to make your password uncrackable.
- They can also use a phishing attack. These attacks usually get you to enter your password on a site the hackers own. The issue here is that they often make these look the same as the regular sites you visit, so you need to be extra vigilant.
Additionally, it’s good to use two-factor authentication. Many sites offer this on their own, but you can also use services like Google Authenticator. The app exists on your phone, and whenever you want to login somewhere, you need your credentials and a code from the app. So, when a hacker steals your password, they won’t be able to log in without the code from the app unless they steal your phone as well.
Strong passwords are still necessary, of course. You should use password managers which safely store all of your passwords and notify you about which ones are strong and which aren’t.
Myth 5: Anti-virus Software Is enough to Keep Me Safe.
Anti-virus software is critical, but it’s rarely enough. To be truly protected, you should also use anti-malware software. Here are the top free anti-malware programs we advise you to test out:
- Malwarebytes – One of the most popular anti-malware programs which offer thorough protection. The free version only lacks real-time protection.
- Bitdefender – One of the best anti-malware software out there. It’s easy and simple to use, and the basic version is free.
- Avira – A very comprehensive security package that only lacks ransomware protection.
Besides anti-malware software, you also need to learn about the proper online behavior that will keep you safe. Kaspersky has a good and more complete list of what you need to know about staying safe online.
Myth 6: The Internet Would Be safe If We Were to Eliminate the Dark Web.
A staggering 71% of people believe the dark web should be shut down because of this. However, in reality, that won’t help much. What’s more, it might even be counterproductive!
- There are plenty of criminal organizations that don’t even use the dark web for their illegal deeds and spreading their message (most notably ISIS).
- Vast numbers of people in many countries rely on the dark web to gain access to more information because their governments ban many sites.
Myth 6: They Don’t Want to Hack Me, I’m Not Important…
This has to be the most prevalent myth of all. Plenty of people feel that hackers would never target them because they are just regular people without much to offer them. If you think like that, trust me, you’re the best target.
Myth 7: Freezing My Credit Will Prevent My Identity From Getting Stolen.
A lot of people feel that freezing their credit will protect their identity after a data breach. However, hackers can still steal it. A frozen account will only make sure they can’t open new accounts. It will not prevent them from using your existing financial accounts in criminal matters like filing fraudulent tax returns.
You need to undertake several steps to recover your identity if the hackers get a hold of your data. What’s more, it’s important to try and protect yourself in advance. According to Javelin Strategy, some 6.64% of consumers were victims of identity theft. It’s not a huge number, but it’s not a small one either. Take a look at this article to learn how to protect yourself from identity theft.
Myth 8: I’ll Know Right Away If My Computer Gets Infected.
Unfortunately, this was true, more than a decade ago. Today, regular malware is sophisticated enough to stay undetected even after it’s started doing its thing.
It always depends on malware, of course, but many of these tend to work in the background only. While that’s happening, your computer will usually continue to run smoothly, it will take you a long time to notice it’s infected.
Myth 9: All VPNs Respect My Privacy
This one is actually one of the most important myths you should look out for. Believing that something is true is one thing, and giving it your full trust is something else. Online security has become very important in any user’s life, that’s why most of you guys resort to the use of VPNs.
VPNs are cybersecurity tools that shield your data and hide your identity when online. You see, when you’re picking a VPN, you should make sure that everything it claims on its website is true, especially the logging policy. That’s the ultimate insurance of your privacy. If a VPN keeps logs, it’ll always be compromised if authorities would come and ask for them.
- First, stay away from free VPNs. These are not to be trusted with your private information. Ask yourself this: How can a free VPN pay for its very expensive servers? I’ll tell you, with your personal data. These providers sell your browsing information to sister companies in exchange for revenue.
- Second, even premium VPNs keep logs – isn’t that right HideMyAss? A while back, HideMyAss handed evidence that resulted in the arrest of a suspected LulzSec member. It shouldn’t be keeping tags, to begin with.
If you’re looking for a VPN that respects your privacy, you need to do a lot of research. ExpressVPN turned out to be exactly what it claims it is on their website. Turkish authorities intercepted a server in Turkey, to find nothing.
The Bottom Line
So, there you have it, a thorough list of the nine most prevalent myths about cybersecurity. If you knew all of these were myths, then congratulations, you’re likely to stay safe from hackers. However, you still need to follow what’s happening in the world of online security and make a point to do what you can to stay safe.
The same thing goes for everyone else, no matter how many myths were genuine in your eyes before reading this article. Online security is a big topic today and an ever-changing one to boot. It’s vital to stay educated and stay safe by using as many secure tactics online as you possibly can. So tell me, did I miss anything? If so, state it in the comments below.